Ah, the offseason. A time to reflect, review, and (30 teams would hope) to improve. As the draft and free agent frenzy approaches I'd like to share my thoughts on what I think is likely to happen with the Canucks and propose a few educated guesses.
First, let's look at the "holes."
___, ___, Burrows
Demitra, Kesler, ___
Raymond, ___, Bernier
Hordichuck, Johnson, Rypien
Spares: ___, ___
Spares: ___, ___
Now I know what you're thinking. Something along the lines of "Crap Jason, that's a lot of holes!" You may have also turned one or two shades lighter in the process. Let's see what we can do get you back to your normal, healthy skin tone.
Let's start with the forwards. First, I know everyone has grandiose visions of Hossa or Gaborik, or more recently Heatley coming to town but I'm sorry to say I just don't see it happening.
Unless there's some MAJOR player movement and an vast change in direction for this team. Mike Gillis strikes me more as the calm and calculated sort than someone who likes to make a dramatic splash (picture Brian Burke). Not that I doubt his ability to make a big move (see the Sundin offer).
My guess is the twins are returning. They want to be here, the team wants them to be here and quite frankly we couldn't replace their production for less money in the UFA market.
It's just a matter of working out the numbers and quite frankly I don't see either side digging their heels in to a point that it would prevent a deal being struck. My guess is something like a $40m ($5m cap hit), eight-year deal ($7m, 7, 6.5, 6.5, 5, 4, 2, 2) with a limited or NTC clause for say the first four years.
Look at that we've already filled two holes and have our first line intact!
Personally I see Gillis spending his largest pocket change on filling in the D with a quality, fast puck-mover. Which will leave only minimal money to upgrade the second line. My guess is someone along the lines of Samuelson from Detroit who we should be able to grab for around $3.5m-$4m.
In this scenario, Kesler slides to centre. Another option being that one of Grabner, Raymond, or Bernier (or Wellwood if we re-sign) shows enough promise to move to a more permanent spot on that line.
If I'm wrong, perhaps we go after Cammalleri for the second line centre (or possibly even re-sign Sundin FOR A SUBSTANTIAL DISCOUNT) and go a bit cheaper on filling in the defense.
Otherwise my opinion is we give RFA's Wellwood and Hansen their mandatory raises and Hodgson/Wellwood duke it out for that third line centre role.
So that leaves us with the following:
D Sedin, H Sedin, Burrows
Demitra, Kesler, Samuelson/Grabner/Raymond/Bernier (or possibly Cammalleri/Sundin on centre)
Two of: Raymond/Grabner/Hansen/Bernier, Hodgson/Wellwood
Hordichuck/Hansen, Johnson, Rypien
Spares: Likely Wellwood, Hansen, and Hordichuck would rotate here.
Now for the defense. I hate to say it, but Ohlund's sadly gone. For his money we need someone faster. He will be missed though.
Personally I see Gillis going after Bouwmeester. He's got the skills our defense is lacking and is still young. Building a D core around him, Edler and Bieksa for years to come makes me drool. Unfortunately to fit him under the cap we may be forced to move Bieksa to clear some space. But I'll leave that to Gillman to sort out.
The other option is seeing if we can't entice Niedermeyer to sign here for a year or two. The immediate benefits should be obvious and would likely outweigh Bouwmeester's immediate impact but I personally like JBo as a longer term solution especially considering the rest of our aging D-men.
Another option might be Oduya out of New Jersey, He'd be cheaper than JBo or Nieds and maybe allow for the acquisition of Cammalleri and/or retention of Bieksa (who had more points than JBo lat year I might add).
Like Wellwood and Hansen, I'd give RFA O'Brien his mandatory raise and while I'm at it re-sign Vaananen. That fills in our 6/7 positions and we use McIver etc from the Moose as call-ups if/when necessary.
So now our defense looks like:
Luongo, will he stay or will he go? That's the biggest question that needs answering here. If we can't for some strange reason re-sign the twins he's all but guaranteed gone. I don't think that happens but even retaining them is no guarantee we keep our all-star goalie.
If he stays and we sign him to an extension, my guess is Schneider gets traded. He'd have limited playing time and wouldn't get a sniff of a No. 1 position for years. The we re-sign LaBarbera (or let's be honest any other available $1m'ish net minder).
If we can't retain Luongo though my opinion is Gillis should trade Luongo for as much prospect/pick/mid-grade goalie treasure as he can get his hands on.
We get a goalie in the say $4m-$5m range and let him and Schneider split games something along 52/30. The added benefit here would be freeing up $2m-$3M in cap space here for some of the more expensive moves listed above.
All in all, with those moves made we should be a better team next year and hopefully make an even bigger push deeper in to the playoffs!